Tag Archives: easy

Kabocha Squash Stir Fry

In December, a really cool regional Thai restaurant called Foreign Correspondents closed after just over a year of business in Houston.

Kabocha Squash Stir Fry // The Pancake Princess

I had mixed feelings about the restaurant. It was one of those places you just want to like because of all the buzz–the interior was awesomely funky with colorful doodles on the wall and low wooden chairs, but the food seemed to be hit or miss. I went there twice: once on a doomed date where, even though he claimed he was “mostly vegetarian,” we ordered the khao soi (and I picked around the chicken to sample the duo of crispy and soupy noodles) and I ate an appropriate amount of food for a date which is to say far less than I would have otherwise consumed.

The second time was when my mom was in town and that was a glory-filled ordering of almost everything I wanted to try. The purple sticky rice was kind of meh and too sweet, the tofu curry was good, the spicy noodles were delicious, but what was really stunning–and what I ordered both times I visited–was the pumpkin stir fry.

Kabocha Squash Stir Fry // The Pancake Princess

Starchy hunks of pumpkin roasted and then sauteed until falling-apart soft and tangled in silky threads of scrambled egg, doused in a savory soy-based sauce. I kept dreaming about until finally a kabocha squash landed in my cart one day and I re-created the recipe the best I could. Guys, I JUST realized what a delicious trio oyster, fish and soy sauce are together. So much more depth than just soy sauce, my typical stir fry crutch. Aside from the roasting of the squash, this stir fry takes about 5 minutes to throw together and I HIGHLY recommend it!

PS. For my Houston readers, Artopia (a super fun party hosted by Houston Press featuring fashion, music, art and food) is this Saturday, 1/28 from 8-11pm! You can check out more about the event here (I went last year and had a blast), and enter for a chance to win a free pair of tickets on my instagram (giveaway ends Thursday at 10 a.m.)!

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Veggie Fried Rice

There is something so alluring about a big bowl of fried rice.

Even though I grew up eating steamed white rice and some kind of stir fry at least five nights a week growing up, I tend to avoid white rice these days. Everything changes when that white rice is fried in oil, dusted with MSG, and speckled with a few greasy peas, carrots, glistening shrimp and egg chunks.

That is, it becomes super unhealthy and close to irresistible.

Blah blah blah I’m in love with fried rice. But making it at home is never the same–it’s always blander and it just doesn’t have that greasy  yummy OOMPH that restaurant fried rice does. Perhaps this is because I’ve always been scared of cooking with garlic (when I accidentally eat a chunk, my breath smells FOR. DAYS. Too much? Sorry.)

I finally conquered my fear of cooking with garlic, so strong was my desire to eat some tasty fried rice at home. I fried the smashed cloves in oil so that the nutty brown flavor would suffuse the rice, but left them whole so that I could spot the garlic a mile away (and avoid eating it). This definitely isn’t as slippery-oily as restaurant fried rice is, but it’s packed with flavor.

I would go so far as to recommend it if you’re feeling a little lazy, have some convenient leftover brown rice, and want a little comfort food made a little healthier with only a teaspoon or two of oil and brown rice.

Do you have any healthified (or not) restaurant-inspired dishes you make at home?

Notes

If you want slightly wetter fried rice, I would add even another egg to this. You can barely taste the egg as is–it’s mostly just a binder for the rice. If you, unlike me, are not scared of garlic, you could add another clove or two of garlic. I’m pretty sure everyone knows how to make fried rice, but what I’m listing below is just a general guideline of how I did it. And I was pretty happy.

I consider peas and carrots essential to fried rice, but if you don’t like them, leave them out. I like the imitation crab sticks you can find at Asian markets, but you can use any kind of protein you like–double up on the tofu or soy crumbles or fish or whatever. I think tiny broccoli florets would be a great addition, as would some fresh basil. Or sauteed eggplant. Okay, let’s not let me get carried away here.

Easy Fried Rice

Serves: a lot. Maybe 4.

2 garlic cloves
2 cups brown rice, cooked (preferably a day old)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/5 block tofu (about 1/2 cup), diced into small cubes
4 imitation crab sticks, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup peas (I used frozen)
2 eggs, beaten
hoisin sauce (optional)
oyster or black bean sauce (optional)
sesame or canola oil
salt and pepper

Heat about a teaspoon of oil in a medium frying pan or wok over medium high heat. Once hot, add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until golden and nutty smelling. Add the carrots and saute for 3 minutes, or until slightly softened and a tiny bit browned on the edges. You can add another teaspoon of oil here if you want. Add tofu and crab sticks and saute another 3-4 minutes. If using frozen peas, add during the last minute of cooking the crab, tofu, carrot and garlic mixture.

While vegetables are cooking, beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Once the vegetables are slightly softened and browned, remove everything from heat and set aside. Add the brown rice to the pan with a little water and let steam for two or so minutes until warmed through. Stir in the vegetables. Dump the beaten egg over the rice mixture and quickly stir so that the egg cooks throughout the rice.

At this point, I spontaneously added a dab of hoisin sauce and black bean sauce because I had them, but those are not must-haves.   Finish with salt and pepper to taste and EAT!

Looking for other easy and healthy dinners (WHAT? That’s what pancakes are for!)? You might also like:

Broccoli Soup
Tomato and Squash Gratin
Spaghetti Primavera (A beginner’s guide to simple pasta)
Polenta Gorgonzola Plate

Easy Wheat Challah

This weekend, three good things happened:

1) My mom came to Houston.
2) My mom brought a lot of stuff.
3) My mom brought a lot of stuff.

Or should that last one be “My mom came to Houston”? I don’t want to make it sound like I was more excited to see the “stuff” than “her,” but omg. It was such. Good. Stuff. When my mom unpacked her suitcase full of goodies, it was as if I had packed myself a surprise gift from California. I guess that is what they mean when they say “I am my mother’s daughter.”

She brought: beautiful, vibrant tomatoes and little green bell peppers from  her garden, insanely sweet white nectarines from the farmer’s market, chocolate chip walnut banana bread, a sack of Granny Smith apples from the tree in our backyard (for apple crisp) and the thing that I’ve been waiting to have forever…A FOOD PROCESSOR/BLENDER!!! Hello chickpea cookie cakes and frozen banana ice cream and spinach smoothies!!!

We had most of the weekend planned out, so I knew that we were going to brunch at my place on Saturday and my mom mentioned that maybe she and my sister could try my “famous” French toast.

So, I always thought that those fluffy delicious breads like brioche and challah always had to be white flour, all the time. But then I saw Kayle of The Cooking Actress‘s whole wheat challah and it was only too clear what would be coming out of my kitchen next. (Have you seen her blog? It’s literally stuffed with yummy things like brown butter mac n’ cheese, cinnamon bun scones and s’mores creme brulee. And who doesn’t want to be friends with an actress? Especially a COOKING actress??)

The brunch table. Challah French toast, apple pears and spinach smoothies!!

This recipe is so simple to throw together, and so rewarding. The only taxing thing is the patience required to wait out the 90 minute total wait time. It yields a soft, plush loaf–mine was practically tearing at the braided seams when I lifted it off the baking sheet. It’s much more of a tender, sandwich-y-like bread than the cinnamon swirl brioche, which was a little crustier and sturdier. The honey is a subtle background sweetness.

But, it’s not necessarily the most harmonious accompaniment to cinnamon sugar. I used my go-to French toast batter for French toast and my mom and sister said it was delicious. If you want my opinion on the B E S T French toast bread, I think the cinnamon swirl brioche is a clear winner. But this challah is not a bad, healthier option to have, and it makes unheard-of-good peanut butter toast.

Even though this may not have been the best batch of French toast I’ve ever made, I was happy I could make it for my mom. The first start in a long road of meals I hope to make, thanking her for all the meals she’s made for me.

Notes

Of course, I didn’t have whole wheat flour on hand when I made this, so I used white whole wheat flour. It made for a lovely, lightly tan loaf, though the original recipes says all whole wheat is the way to go.

I’m calling this “easy” because it’s really a “dump, stir, knead, wait, braid, bake” kind of recipe. As long as you have yeast you can count on, you can count on a delicious loaf of bread. Don’t be afraid to heavily flour your surface before kneading–my dough was extremely sticky. You can most definitely probably use a stand mixer with a dough hook instead of kneading by hand, but I found it therapeautic to squish dough around for seven or so minutes (I did not knead it for the full recommended 10 minutes).

This recipe is easily doubled (and was, in fact, doubled in the original recipe), but I find that one loaf is the perfect amount to feed about five people, or three people with not an insane amount of leftovers.

Also, though I usually play with oven times, this was done right at 30 minutes. On the dot.

Easy Wheat Challah
Lightly adapted from allrecipes

2 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup warm water (I microwaved mine for about 25 seconds. It should be warm, not hot–it should be comfortable to dip your finger in to test the water)
1 egg

1 egg white, for brushing
sesame seeds, for sprinkling

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast until well mixed. In another bowl, combine the honey, olive oil, water and egg. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until it forms a dough.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. For me, this meant I pushed it around until it was pretty smooth and no longer stuck to my hands. Form the dough into a round shape. Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn the dough over a few times to oil the surface. Cover the bowl with a cloth, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Gently knead the dough a few times to remove some of the bubbles. Divide into three equal balls.
  4. Working on a floured surface, roll the dough pieces into ropes about 12 inches long. Ropes should be fatter in the middle and thinner at the ends. Pinch 3 ropes together at the top and braid them. Starting with the strand to the right, move it to the left over the middle strand (that strand becomes the new middle strand.) Take the strand farthest to the left, and move it over the new middle strand. Continue braiding, alternating sides each time, until the loaf is braided, and pinch the ends together and fold them underneath for a neat look. Repeat for the other loaf, place the braided loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with about 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Incredible eaten warm, but also amazing eaten several days later as French toast.

You might also like…

Cinnamon Brioche French Toast
White Whole Wheat Olive Oil Bread
Pumpkin Bread

Peach Pie Muffins

All day yesterday, I was craving some peach pie.

I definitely needed more peaches than these, but at the end of the day, pie was feeling like a lot of work. Clearly muffins would do the trick.

They didn’t have to be fancy. I just wanted some juicy pockets of peach inside some tender muffin. Preferably healthy. (Still detoxing after all that cake. Well. My version of a detox anyway.)

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